Crossing the Blood Brain Barrier
If this holds up with further research and testing, it is a really big deal. Finding a way to allow chemotherapy drugs to cross the blood brain barrier and reach the brain has been a goal for decades. As you may know, standard chemotherapy drugs cannot infiltrate this barrier, so they don't reach the brain. Since the brain is a possible site of mets (meaning that the cancer cells are able to cross that barrier), this has been an important and scary problem.
Several years ago, a new treatment for her2 positive breast cancer showed some promise in this area, but it clearly has not solved the problem. For more background see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23481218
The current study from the UK suggests that a protein called TNF can hone in on sites in the brain where there are cancer cells, and then cross the blood brain barrier to deliver drugs directly to those sites. Equally important, this protein left all other parts of the brain untouched by the drugs. Again, I feel the need to remind and caution us all that too often exciting research results don't hold up to further testing or turn out to be less helpful than initially thought. However, this is potentially huge. Here is the start of a brief report from Cancer Research UK and then a link to read more:
Scientists break blood-brain barrier to allow cancer drugs in
Cancer Research UK scientists have found a way of delivering drugs more effectively
to treat life-threatening cancers that have spread to the brain, according to research
published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute1.
The study, in mice and tissue samples, used a protein called TNF that can track down
sites in the brain where cancer has spread by recognising a marker found only on
tumour blood vessels.
The scientists, from the University of Oxford, found that TNF can home in on these sites and temporarily open the
blood-brain barrier (BBB) allowing drugs to pass from the blood system into the tumour.
The BBB acts as a shield that prevents potentially dangerous particles such as bacteria entering the brain. But it’s this same shield that stops cancer drugs reaching tumours that have spread to the brain.
The TNF protein only broke down the BBB in the blood vessels that pass through the tumour, leaving the healthy parts of the brain undamaged by potentially toxic drugs.